John G. Peters
It has been my practice over the last eight years to periodically share information and perspectives during key stages of the annual state budget process. We reached such a stage last week, and I am taking this opportunity to share what we know at this point. While information about this year’s fiscal debate has been plentiful – dominating headlines and news broadcasts for many months – definitive analysis of potential NIU impact has been much more difficult to come by. Gubernatorial and legislative action taken last week has sharpened that focus enough to provide a snapshot of what we expect in the weeks and months ahead.
Several weeks ago, the General Assembly and the Governor were unable to reach agreement on a balanced FY09 state budget. As a result, the budget that passed contained almost $2 billion in expenditures for which there were insufficient revenues. The Illinois Constitution requires a balanced budget each year. Last week, Gov. Blagojevich called the General Assembly back into session to present a list of FY09 budget vetoes aimed at trimming that deficit. Preliminary review of those vetoes suggests state universities may, for the time being, avoid cuts in general revenue funding. However, the vetoes put forth by Governor Blagojevich total $1.4 billion, short of the $2 billion needed to balance the budget. If additional revenue sources are not agreed to in the coming weeks, further reductions to the FY09 budget may be required.
Our disappointment over the uncertainty of the FY09 budget is tempered by not-too-distant memories of devastating rescissions. We endured those crises and will certainly do the same this year, armed with consistent priorities and firm resolve. Salary increments remain a top priority, yet require a great deal of prudence, as uncertainty over our final FY09 budget remains. As in past years, salary increment guidelines will be shared as soon as possible after a final budget is adopted, and any increments will be made retroactive to July 1, 2008.
Lawmakers will be back in Springfield next week to continue budget discussions, which we expect to include veto-override efforts. Please know that we will be working hard to advance NIU’s needs in the weeks ahead, and that I will continue to communicate with you about state budget development and its impact on our university.
As always, thank you for your attention, support and dedication to Northern Illinois University and all those whom we serve.
John G. Peters